West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

OVERTIME: Where Have We Been - Where Are We Going (Part 1)

The sport of wrestling has always had the quandary of determining how to break the "tie" in a match, without compromising fairness to the matmen.

First, we developed the "referee's decision." Unfortunately, the approach was too subjective in nature. Permit me to share one personal coaching experience I had in reference to the referee's decision.

My heavyweight and his opponent were tied after the regulation bout. Thus, they had to compete in the overtime which consisted of a new match with three one-minute periods. There was no takedown in the first period, my wrestler escaped quickly in the stcond stanza, and after about 45 seconds of riding, his adversary escaped in the third period.

I felt confident my wrestler had won the match because of his swift escape, and he rode out his opponent much longer. The referee raised his competition's hand.

Immediately following the match, I professionally confronted the official with a succinct question, "Why?"

The referee informed me that his decision was based on the fact that the other wrestler made more attempts to escape during the third period of overtime.

I retorted, "True, but that was because my boy broke him down more times. And furthermore, he acquired a much quicker escape in the second period of overtime."

The referee, being an honorable man, admitted I had a valid point, but the bout had already been decided. Yes, the "referee's decision" practice was too bogged down with personal conjecture (no two officials think exactly alike). Thank goodness it was very wisely discontinued.

Next, we were introduced to the "Overtime Criteria" system. The new strategy was definitely an improvement over the referee's decision. Still, the overtime criteria possessed some imperfections of its own.

It was very cumbersome with over 10 criteria from which to choose at the end of the bout. Often officials had to spend an extensive amount of time after the match, pondering the score sheet and the overtime criteria - as the wrestlers anxiously awaited the decision.

The second and more serious defect was that the final criterion stated that the official must select the winner. We were back to where we started from - the "referee's decision." It, too, was eliminated.

The present National Federation State High School Associations (NFHS) one-minute overtime period and 30-second tiebreaker set-up is definitely a much better approach for determining the winner in a wrestling match. However, "luck" still plays a role in deciding who is given the choice in the 30-second tiebreaker. Allow me to explain.

The existing Rule (6-7-1, p. 25) reads as follows:

"If no winner is declared by the end of the 1-minute overtime period, a 30-second tiebreaker will be wrestled The choice of position in the tiebreaker will be granted to the wrestler who scores the first points in the regulation match."
There is a flaw involving good fortune regarding this rule. Be it a dual meet or a tournament, the "flip of the disk" settles who has choice in the second period of the regulation match. Likewise, the wrestler who wins the toss usually selects down, and escapes or reverses his opponent. Thus, he earns the right to choose if the match reaches the 30-second tiebreaker. It doesn't matter if his adversary acquires an even faster escape or reversal in the third period.

Due to this dilemma, we conducted a pilot study last year in West Virginia for the National Federation of State High School Associations. Our investigation consisted of changing the "choice of positiona" criteria in the 30-second tiebreaker.

In Part II, you will learn what we did, what the coaches thought, what we learned, and what the future holds.

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